Review Blog

Feb 07 2014

The story machine by Tom McLaughlin

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781408839331.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Story telling, illustrative technique. When Elliott finds an abandoned machine in his attic, he ponders over its use for quite a while. It has no power cord, it makes no noises and it has no on/off switch. But when he accidentally sits on it, the machine makes letters on a page. He is thrilled; he has found a story machine, but sometime his spelling is a little awkward, and he again discovers that the letters can make pictures. And he can do these pictures in such a way that he can still tell a story.
But one day something goes very wrong with his machine, and it refuses to work any more. Elliott is distraught, until he trawls the attic once more, finding pen and paper, brushes and paint, and finds he can still tell a story with pictures after all.
The illustrator has cleverly used a continuous roll of paper which loops across the pages, linking one page to the next to tell his story. His pictures of Elliott experimenting with different ways of using the machine to create his story containing the seeds of things that can be done at home or in the classroom, while the stories Elliott develops will intrigue the younger reader, looking closely at each page to find the myriad of pictures within the clatter of letters, and then work out the stories being told.
How wonderful that McLaughlin lauds the use of an old typewriter, paper, then brushes, paint and pen to extol the virtues of storytelling at its most basic, reflecting the ease of using such things rather than their hi-tech replacements.
A book to engender much discussion.
Fran Knight

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